Can The People Of Hong Kong Keep Their Freedom?

Hong Kong has rarely been out of the headlines in recent months as its people clash with Chinese authorities in a very public way. The streets are regularly thronged with thousands of protestors, as tensions rise and frustrations spill over to create chaos.

New legislation

The proposed introduction of legislation has triggered resistance from those living in Hong Kong rather than in mainland China. Initial peaceful protests have developed into violent confrontations with the police, as the population fears a loss of control over their future freedom. Local government has shown itself to be powerless, as it passively responds to directions from the Chinese government. To the surprise of many, the protests have grown in intensity as the gap between the government and its people deepens to uncomfortable levels. The fear of course is that the Chinese one party government will overreact and initiate a military backed clamp down. There are already signs of reprisals and arrests as leaders on the street are detained for taking part in mass public demonstrations.

In the lead up to the current unrest China tightened its grip on the city by restricting freedom of speech among universities and other institutions. Local laws too have been undermined in a way that unnerves people living in the city. Control measures already in widespread use in mainland China are increasingly evident as attempts are made to stifle the will of the population. Hong Kong’s relative freedom is under threat as people make a stand in the face of harsh penalties. The response from the Chinese government is significant and sinister and raises the possibility of an escalation in violence at any point.

Business under pressure

The position of the city as a leading business centre is under pressure too, as companies are pressed to explicitly support the government. China has made it abundantly clear that businesses are expected to abide by the rule of law. Little patience is afforded to people or companies who promote the promise of a ‘one country, two systems’ policy. China is focussed on delivering its view of how the law should be interpreted and has little patience for any other points of view.

There have of course been clashes in the past as China tried to change the law but this time it appears more intent on getting what it wants. An immediate solution looks unlikely, as neither protestors nor government have found a way to create the space needed to agree or even discuss a compromise. A point of no return may have already been reached in the long running standoff, as both sides are committed to achieving their respective aims.

So, the people of Hong Kong are fighting to keep promised freedoms but are pitted against a patient, powerful and determined government.